[Narnia Content Note: Death, Poisoning, Snakes, People / Children being killed on adventures, Violent Kings, Misogyny]
Narnia Recap: Jill and Eustace have had a lovely evening and now shit's gonna get real.
The Silver Chair, Chapter 4: A Parliament of Owls
Alright people, once more into the breach!
I think it's a little interesting, the more we go through these books, to see the author struggle with keeping the action going and you guys, this is a legit hard thing to do. There's always this tension between whether to keep the characters stumbling towards the goal line or to actually slow down and info-dump all the world-building and backstory and there really is no One Right Way to do it because there are readers who couldn't give a toss about the backstory and there are readers who want pages and pages of this stuff, so I am inclined to give Lewis a touch of a pass on this just because this is genuinely hard and he tried. You Tried, Lewis.
Like, I'm reminded of all the early parts of The Fellowship of the Ring where, okay, it was genuinely in-character for Frodo to drag his feet on everything but as a kid I was like oh my god this is the most boring thing ever just go already THIS IS NOT HARD and then they FINALLY get on the road and exciting things happen but HAHA NOPE now we're going to sit around in Rivendell for what feels like YEARS AND YEARS so that people can recite poetry at you and I realize that there are fans for whom this backstory stuff is like sweet, sweet candy--and omg I respect the fuck out of these people, I really do--but all I wanted to do was read about this damn ring being melted, okay? So let's give Lewis props for at least not making us sit through eighteen pages of poetry about the Horse and His Boy but then I must immediately take those props away because he then made a full book out of the story so I GUESS WE'RE EVEN.
Anyway, like all the books that have come before it in this series, we are now going to have backstory and politics vomited at us, but it only takes one chapter this time instead of the three (or more??) chapters that it took in Prince Caspian so... yay, I guess?
“Hush, hush! Tu-whoo, tu-whoo,” said the Owl. “Don’t make a noise. Now, are you two really in earnest about what you’ve got to do?”
“About the lost Prince, you mean?” said Jill. “Yes, we’ve got to be.” For now she remembered the Lion’s voice and face, which she had nearly forgotten during the feasting and story-telling in the hall.
“Good!” said the Owl. “Then there’s no time to waste. You must get away from here at once. I’ll go and wake the other human. Then I’ll come back for you. You’d better change those court clothes and put on something you can travel in. I’ll be back in two twos. Tu-whoo!” And without waiting for an answer, he was gone.
If Jill had been more used to adventures, she might have doubted the Owl’s word, but this never occurred to her: and in the exciting idea of a midnight escape she forgot her sleepiness. She changed back into sweater and shorts—there was a guide’s knife on the belt of the shorts which might come in useful—and added a few of the things that had been left in the room for her by the girl with the willowy hair. She chose a short cloak that came down to her knees and had a hood (“just the thing, if it rains,” she thought), a few handkerchiefs and a comb. Then she sat down and waited.
Now, I live in Texas because cold weather is anathema to me, and I am admittedly not of Hardy British Stock. But. I read there about Jill being in shorts, and please believe me that I hate dresses and skirts with the fire of a thousand suns, but if I were going to be out on a Very Cold Adventure in the middle of winter, I think I would pick the skirts if it meant having my legs actually covered and out of the wind because oh my god Jill you are going to freeze to death. (Stay tuned for this plot point!)
I'm less of a fan about the Theologies that Jill had supposedly almost forgotten about Aslan because of all the Soft Civilization (Conan Theologies ahoy!) making it hard for her to think about anything other than warm food and pretty stories. Because, like, seriously Lewis? We can't have a nice evening of food and stories without it threatening our immortal soul? So Susan was a naughty girl to avoid the Friends o' Narnia potlucks because why now? Or are we to assume that the Friends o' Narnia potlucks were utterly joyless affairs and actually now that I type that, I kinda do assume that, so well done I guess, but I just cannot and will not get on board with the idea that any type of luxury whatsoever will just push all thoughts of god out of our weak-willed little Jedi-susceptible minds. (Stay tuned for this to be another major plot point!)
And I'm going to side-rant here (BECAUSE I CAN??) about the Riddick movie that I watched over the break and which I totally hate as a very inadequate sequel to the excellent Pitch Black (seriously, you guys, Riddick is to Pitch Black what Alien 3 was to Aliens YEAH I WENT THERE) (and actually I am a huge Aliens fan and even I don't hate Alien 3 that much because Charles Dance as a love interest kinda made it worth the cost of admission for me and I think we can all deal with me having that opinion), because Riddick has these shitty Mysterious Warrior Poet voice-overs about how maybe he's all washed-up not because he's old or got careless but because he "got too civilized" (ahahahahaha this is so ridiculously stupid in the context of these movies that it makes ZERO sense except as a Thing That Guys Who Like Conan Say because it literally makes no sense whatsoever coming from a guy who was warrior-king of a community whose whole thing was destroying civilizations while hurtling towards self-destruction of their own) so OF COURSE he immediately sets about taming a local canine on the Local Deserted Planet and working out how to forage and live off the land in sustainable farmery ways AS THOUGH THAT STUFF ISN'T CIVILIZATION, and it's literally just wank material about how might-makes-right which is basically the exact opposite of the whole point of Pitch Black so the movie is just a huge fuck you to any kind of emotional continuity but who are we to ask for that in our movie franchises we are BIG SILLY GIRLS is what we are but I digress.
“Tu-whoo!” said the Owl. “We’re not going through the castle. That would never do. You must ride on me. We shall fly.”
“Oh!” said Jill, and stood with her mouth open, not much liking the idea. “Shan’t I be far too heavy for you?”
“Tu-whoo, tu-whoo! Don’t you be a fool. I’ve already carried the other one. Now. But we’ll put out that lamp first.”
As soon as the lamp was out, the bit of night which you saw through the window looked less dark—no longer black, but gray. The Owl stood on the window-sill with his back to the room and raised his wings. Jill had to climb onto his short fat body and get her knees under the wings and grip tight. The feathers felt beautifully warm and soft but there was nothing to hold on by. “I wonder how Scrubb liked his ride!” thought Jill. And just as she was thinking this, with a horrid plunge they had left the window-sill, and the wings were making a flurry round her ears, and the night air, rather cool and damp, was flying in her face.
I like to believe that Jill is here remembering that Eustace is afraid of heights, and is expressing concern and sympathy for him having to fly on an owl. I know that is wholly not what we've come to expect from these books--character consistency of memory AND actual empathy--and I'm very aware that there are other ways to interpret her statement here, but I'm going to hold onto this as a rare and fleeting jewel of the characters maybe-possibly-sorta liking each other. We will need this coming up because there is unmitigated bickering.
A side-note on this: I realize that for some people, constant bickering is just a thing they do with their friends?? But as someone who has all kinds of anxiety triggers around conflict, this is so very much not my own paradigm for friends. And, like, if I were on an adventure with Eustace and he kept reminding me that everything was totally my fault for that one time I shoved him off of a cliff, I honestly could not deal with that. Which isn't to say that he isn't allowed his feelings, and definitely isn't to say that I wouldn't apologize (I would apologize so so much for that whole cliff thing), but just to say that I feel really sorry for Jill to have to deal with this ON TOP OF THE FACT that Eustace is a Known Bully and possibly a Known Bully At Her and also he still totally hasn't apologized for any of that. So this whole story is an oddly-tense exploration of how they Become Friends (it is kind of a Big Deal when they stop using each other's surnames and switch to "Jill" and "Eustace") except that much of the time is spent hating on each other so it feels a little... forced? awkward? like they're Battle-Forged Buddies but still don't actually like each other that much?
MAKING "NARNIA NIGHTS" THAT MUCH MORE TENSE, I IMAGINE.
Anyway, wow, I can't stay focused today. The Owl carries Jill to a tower (and he also catches and eats a bat and offers to get one for Jill and I like this as a nice touch of a culture Not Our Own, none of this orange marmalade stuff from LWW), and I really have no idea where this ruined tower is and whether it's supposed to be the star-gazing tower from Prince Caspian as a callback or something, but please enjoy this probably-non-canon and not-to-scale map of Narnia because it is pretty.
It was rather fusty inside and, the moment she slipped off the Owl’s back, she knew (as one usually does somehow) that it was quite crowded. And when voices began saying out of the darkness from every direction “Tu-whoo! Tu-whoo!” she knew it was crowded with owls. She was rather relieved when a very different voice said:
“Is that you, Pole?”
“Is that you, Scrubb?” said Jill.
“Now,” said Glimfeather, “I think we’re all here. Let us hold a parliament of owls.”
Extra bonus! This Unskippable video where Graham and Paul point out that it's really "a parliament of a parliament of owls". (Also, is it weird that "is that you, Pole?" is answered by "is that you, Scrubb?"?? I mean, even if she didn't recognize his voice, who else here calls her that? I like to believe Jill is being sarcastic because of course it's her. Except how could he know that? Maybe he asked in a really rude and dismissive tone so she shot it right back over to him. SO MANY LAYERS.)
“Tu-whoo, tu-whoo. True for you. That’s the right thing to do,” said several voices.
“Half a moment,” said Scrubb’s voice. “There’s something I want to say first.”
“Do, do, do,” said the owls; and Jill said, “Fire ahead.”
“I suppose all you chaps—owls, I mean,” said Scrubb, “I suppose you all know that King Caspian the Tenth, in his young days, sailed to the eastern end of the world. Well, I was with him on that journey: with him and Reepicheep the Mouse, and the Lord Drinian and all of them. I know it sounds hard to believe, but people don’t grow older in our world at the same speed as they do in yours. And what I want to say is this, that I’m the King’s man; and if this parliament of owls is any sort of plot against the King, I’m having nothing to do with it.”
“Tu-whoo, tu-whoo, we’re all the King’s owls too,” said the owls.
And oh my god this is so awkward. And this is another one of those "writing is hard" moments because As You Know recaps are always tricky to make flow naturally and I really do sympathize with trying to sprinkle all this backstory in organically rather than grinding the action to a halt to recap the last book, but this comes off as less of a "guys, seriously, I don't do treason" and more of a name-dropping bragging. I mean, what are the Owls supposed to take from this? Eustace is saying that he's as old as the king, when he's clearly not, but it's okay because he's from another world, so either he's a liar or mistaken? (OH YAY THE LEWIS TRILEMMA AGAIN WE CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF THAT.) I mean, I guess the owls have a paradigm for this since a bunch of Telmarines zapped off to another world (or so the story goes, no one can confirm or deny) 70+ years ago, but this seems a touch far-fetched but everyone is just totally chill with it and doesn't question it at all.
So, okay, magic. But then we have the problem that no only has Eustace not gotten teary-eyed about anyone other than Caspian being old, he hasn't even checked in with them. Like, you'd kinda think that Eustace would ask "where's Lord Drinian, I know that guy, can I talk to him?" but he doesn't. (Also, how much does anyone know about Reepicheep in this world? Caspian didn't go with them to the end of the world like in the movie; the English kids and Reepicheep just set off in a boat and no one ever saw them again. We know that they made it, but no one else did. Did the Telmarines really go home and tell stories far and wide about the one Talking Animal they took with them but totes didn't come back alive and they let him sail off into the distance and never knew what happened to him? It's not a very satisfying story at best, and at worst it kinda looks like the Telmarines ganked their Animal crewman in a fit of racism. Which, considering they wanted to eat Eustace as a dragon is actually not that far-fetched. I am not buying that Reepicheep became an epic by-word back home afterwards, is what I am saying.)
Also-also, why did none of this come up before Eustace got on the Owl's back and flew out here? I know it's because then the reader wouldn't have seen it--we can't have had Eustace in Jill's room so close to bedtime after all!--but it just seems really awkward and okay we have belabored the awkward enough moving on.
“What’s it all about then?” said Scrubb.
“It’s only this,” said Glimfeather. “That if the Lord Regent, the Dwarf Trumpkin, hears you are going to look for the lost Prince, he won’t let you start. He’d keep you under lock and key sooner.”
“Great Scott!” said Scrubb. “You don’t mean that Trumpkin is a traitor? I used to hear a lot about him in the old days, at sea. Caspian—the King, I mean—trusted him absolutely.”
“Oh no,” said a voice. “Trumpkin’s no traitor. But more than thirty champions (knights, centaurs, good giants, and all sorts) have at one time or another set out to look for the lost Prince, and none of them have ever come back. And at last the King said he was not going to have all the bravest Narnians destroyed in the search for his son. And now nobody is allowed to go.”
“But surely he’d let us go,” said Scrubb. “When he knew who I was and who had sent me.”
(“Sent both of us,” put in Jill.)
“Yes,” said Glimfeather, “I think, very likely, he would. But the King’s away. And Trumpkin will stick to the rules. He’s as true as steel, but he’s deaf as a post and very peppery. You could never make him see that this might be the time for making an exception to the rule.”
Wow, so several good points in that paragraph.
First of all, yes, thank you Jill for speaking up. That "knew who I was and who had sent me" framing is so awkward and kinda reinforces that Eustace is... bragging? losing himself in old memories? not really thinking clearly because he's had a long day? something?? The "knew who I was" is almost reasonable because Eustace does have a history here and Jill doesn't, but the "who had sent me" is just weird in the extreme given that Eustace has not interacted with Aslan at all in this book. Jill could have met an imposter who was really a donkey in a lion suit (OH SNAP) is what I am saying.
Second of all, uuuuuugh, I am not sure how I feel about making Trumpkin the Obstructionist in this plot. There's always been a lot of racism in these books, starting with the idea that a nation of Talking Animals couldn't possibly be self-governed and definitely needs four kids with no political understanding whatsoever to be imported from England in order for the country to run smoothly simply because they have special human genes in their special human bodies and that makes them objectively better. Now that we finally have a non-human in charge this is being presented as definitely totes a bad thing because he would follow the rules (man) and he wouldn't make the necessary theological exceptions.
And, I mean, this is especially annoying because Trumpkin would actually probably not be wrong to look at these two kids and assume they were runaways from some Telmarine family and they'd come up with a story about Aslan (who everyone must know about now) sending them off to find the missing prince (ditto) and telling them that no, you kids have to stay here. Aslan did not actually in fact give them any kind of proof that they are who they say they are because proof is for DWARVES AND ATHEISTS (and atheist dwarves) who refuse to see the truth because they're so crusty-fusty. So I would like to now think that these owls have sent hundreds of Telmarine children to their doom because they are just that credulous and/or secretly behind the whole "the nation is now only 20% Telmarine how did that happen tee hee" shenanigans.
Anyway. The point is that 70-year-old human men who think nothing of leaving their country every time there's a problem (I SEE YOU, JON LE BON) (if you haven't read A Distant Mirror yet, I recommend it so hard just saying) are great kings and chosen by god, but sensible dwarves who do not ask "how high" the minute someone claims a magic lion told him to jump ARE NOT good rulers, they are bland and boring and obstructive and probably atheists going to hell, no wait that's an upcoming book I am jumping ahead again.
Here, have some fanart I made just for you, don't say I never gave you nothing.
“You might think he’d take some notice of us,because we’re owls and everyone knows how wise owls are,” said someone else. “But he’s so old now he’d only say, ‘You’re a mere chick. I remember you when you were an egg. Don’t come trying to teach me, Sir. Crabs and crumpets!’”
This owl imitated Trumpkin’s voice rather well, and there were sounds of owlish laughter all round. The children began to see that the Narnians all felt about Trumpkin as people feel at school about some crusty teacher, whom everyone is a little afraid of and everyone makes fun of and nobody really dislikes.
So, Lewis, there's kind of a word for making fun of someone like this and it's called mockery?? And that can very easily edge into bullying, which is a word and concept you seem to use a lot but don't seem to understand very well? And while I'm actually full-on down with mocking authority figures who need to have the piss taken out of them now and again like, oh-I-don't-know, Aslan or King Caspian, I'm actually so much less on-board with mocking a member of a minority class (who was nearly wiped out, but it's okay that you've forgotten about that, who are we to expect consistency across a series you wrote, this is very unreasonable of us, I know) who does not in fact have any real power in this series and instead is basically treated as a glorified babysitter that nobody listens to because fuck him it's not like he's human.
And we've never even seen any evidence that Trumpkin is maybe a bit of a jerk and deserves the piss taken out of him. Like, this isn't Severus Snape where the kids see him as a "crusty teacher" because let's face it HE IS. All we know about Trumpkin is that he was nearly killed by Telmarines and then was attacked by Aslan because he didn't believe in him (HOW DARE HE, AMIRIGHT) and then he got stuck with a regency he wasn't thrilled about because it was very important for Caspian to go on a sea-voyage and watch with satisfaction while his entourage beat old men in the face for failing to genuflect properly at this whipper-snapper the guy had no way of recognizing or knowing.
So basically the whole series is pissing on Trumpkin and I'm supposed to be happy about that. I AM NOT.
“How long is the King going to be away?” asked Scrubb.
“If only we knew!” said Glimfeather. “You see, there has been a rumor lately that Aslan himself has been seen in the islands—in Terebinthia, I think it was. And the King said he would make one more attempt before he died to see Aslan face to face again, and ask his advice about who is to be King after him. But we’re all afraid that, if he doesn’t meet Aslan in Terebinthia, he’ll go on east, to Seven Isles and Lone Islands—and on and on. He never talks about it, but we all know he has never forgotten that voyage to the world’s end. I’m sure in his heart of hearts he wants to go there again.”
I didn't cut anything there. We went straight from mocking Trumpkin for competently doing a job he didn't even want--a job that no doubt has a huge amount of headaches and there's zero sense that he's getting rewarded overly much for it, and I really doubt that Lewis wants it to be headcanon that Trumpkin is living it up with wine, women, and song because obviously that would be fun and fun is IMMORAL, but fuck it, I am now imagining Trumpkin with affectionate lovers of MANY VARIED GENDERS AND RACES and all of them trying their bestest to alleviate the stress of doing Caspian's job for him all the damn time but I mean there's only so much that sexytimes can fix, you know?--to talking wistfully about how great and epic Caspian is for constantly abandoning his responsibilities at the flimsiest of excuses because he's still hung up about that time god said no to him about going to the end of the world and seventy years wasn't enough to get over being told NO once in his life.
“Then there’s no good waiting for him to come back?” said Jill.
“No, no good,” said the Owl. “Oh, what a to-do! If only you two had known and spoken to him at once! He’d have arranged everything—probably given you an army to go with you in search of the Prince.”
Jill kept quiet at this and hoped Scrubb would be sporting enough not to tell all the owls why this hadn’t happened. He was, or very nearly. That is, he only muttered under his breath, “Well, it wasn’t my fault,” before saying out loud:
“Very well. We’ll have to manage without it.
As several of you have pointed out, having a military escort probably everyone would have gotten killed in the process because this is not the kind of adventure where an army would have made things better. This is like if Tolkien had tried to improve the Lord of the Rings books by complaining every few pages that if only Frodo had done things properly, then Elrond would have sent him with an elven army and everything would have been so much better.
I do like to think that Trumpkin would have sent them out with proper pants, though. Or "trousers", since we're being all Englishy today. Though I doubt Jill and Eustace are wearing flannel underwear and winter is coming, so maybe pants is also applicable there so I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG MAYBE.
“Very well. We’ll have to manage without it. But there’s just one thing more I want to know. If this owls’ parliament, as you call it, is all fair and above board and means no mischief, why does it have to be so jolly secret—meeting in a ruin in dead of night, and all that?”
“Tu-whoo! Tu-whoo!” hooted several owls. “Where should we meet? When would anyone meet except at night?”
“You see,” explained Glimfeather, “most of the creatures in Narnia have such unnatural habits. They do things by day, in broad blazing sunlight (ugh!) when everyone ought to be asleep. And, as a result, at night they’re so blind and stupid that you can’t get a word out of them. So we owls have got into the habit of meeting at sensible hours, on our own, when we want to talk about things.”
“I see,” said Scrubb. “Well now, let’s get on. Tell us all about the lost Prince.” Then an old owl, not Glimfeather, related the story.
And, again, ten points for having a foreign culture that isn't British in every possible way. Owls meet at night, very nicely done, yes. Those points are then immediately taken away for the Owls being so culturally insensitive and/or stupid that they think that all diurnal creatures are stupid and silly rather than recognizing that cultural/biological differences are a thing. Like, again, Lewis is making the Talking Animals be Comically Stupid and I hate this so much for many reasons (it makes no SENSE, for one, everyone is inconsistently smart and stupid at the same time) but not least because it is hella-racist that only human children (both in the book and reading along) would recognize basic realities like "owls and dwarves have different sleep cycles" because hey, kids, you're smarter than everything else on the grounds that you were born (British and) human. (Also girls have no head for compass points, amiright, etc.)
Anyway. The story of Rilian is that he was "a very young knight" (maybe twenty?? who knows??) and the Queen (who was maybe eighty?? but she was also half-star or full-star or who knows??) was killed by a snake, which is obviously very sad but as depizan pointed out the book kinda acts like she was cut off in the prime of her life and also it is difficult for me to imagine that Lewis was down with a woman having a baby at the age of sixty so either he just was like "fuck timelines" (who are we to ask for consistency in our books, we continue to be very unreasonable) or Caspian snagged himself an Eternally Youthful Star Wife which honestly I suspect is more likely to have been the case in Lewis' mind so let's go with Caspian winning at patriarchy like that.
About ten years ago, it appeared, when Rilian, the son of Caspian, was a very young knight, he rode with the Queen his mother on a May morning in the north parts of Narnia. They had many squires and ladies with them and all wore garlands of fresh leaves on their heads and horns at their sides; but they had no hounds with them, for they were maying, not hunting. In the warm part of the day they came to a pleasant glade where a fountain flowed freshly out of the earth, and there they dismounted and ate and drank and were merry. After a time the Queen felt sleepy, and they spread cloaks for her on the grassy bank, and Prince Rilian with the rest of the party went a little way from her, that their tales and laughter might not wake her. And so, presently, a great serpent came out of the thick wood and stung the Queen in her hand. All heard her cry out and rushed toward her, and Rilian was first at her side. He saw the worm gliding away from her and made after it with his sword drawn. It was great, shining, and as green as poison, so that he could see it well: but it glided away into thick bushes and he could not come at it. So he returned to his mother, and found them all busy about her. But they were busy in vain, for at the first glance of her face Rilian knew that no physic in the world would do her good. As long as the life was in her she seemed to be trying hard to tell him something. But she could not speak clearly and, whatever her message was, she died without delivering it. It was then hardly ten minutes since they had first heard her cry.
I personally find it terribly implausible that they'd leave the queen completely alone (Dear Lewis: monarchies really do not work this way, I AM SORRY), and I am here going to plug the excellent book Sex with the Queen, which makes the point that pretty much every queenly sexcapade ever needed complicit ladies-in-waiting at the very least because queens were left fully-alone basically never, and when you juxtapose that with the same author's Sex With Kings book, it's an interesting feministy point about how kinging has usually been about ownership but queening has usually been about being owned and anyway they're good books, check them out if you like that sort of thing.
Anyway, I'm a little bemused that the Queen really needed to tell Rilian something that she couldn't get out. I assume it is supposed to be some kind of warning about how the snake was really a sexy woman and/or dangerous witch (TO BE FAIR, I am not sure Lewis parses a difference between these two concepts), but since Rilian is magicked into servitude to this sexy woman / witch, I'm not sure that a warning would do all that much good here?
They carried the dead Queen back to Cair Paravel, and she was bitterly mourned by Rilian and by the King, and by all Narnia. She had been a great lady, wise and gracious and happy, King Caspian’s bride whom he had brought home from the eastern end of the world. And men said that the blood of the stars flowed in her veins. The Prince took his mother’s death very hardly, as well he might.
Annnnnnnnnnnnnd, is it ungracious of me that this just feels... a little flat? And kinda still misogynistic in that weird Narnia way? Can't Caspian and Rilian just miss their wife/mother because they loved her? There's always this weird undercurrent in Lewis' writings about grief where there's this need to justify mournful feels, like it's unmanly or feminine or sinful or something to just be sad about a sad thing. And then you layer all this "well, this PARTICULAR woman was a USEFUL person so it's OKAY to miss her" with the rampant misogyny in the series and it's... not really that okay to me, and honestly leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Like, there is a difference between liking Proverbs 31 and the woman who brings her husband "good, not harm" and then going full throttle into acting like women who do not meet this impossible criteria are therefore awful and shouldn't be mourned if they die because good riddance. And yeah, okay, Lewis doesn't actually say that, but it seems like this whole series revolves around women dying and then us being told whether it's okay to feel sad about that. Jadis died, and the people who remembered her fondly were Evul (Prince Caspian). Susan fails to make it into heaven in Last Battle, and it's definitely possible to read her siblings as ambivalent about that, but we definitely don't get real mourning over her absence. Ramandu's Daughter (no name!) dies and there is mourning because she was a good woman and therefore worthy of mourning, but when the Green Witch dies, not a single person will feel sad about that, and just... I don't know. I kind of think it's possible to mourn people's deaths even if they weren't Shining Examples of Womanhood.
MAYBE I AM WEIRD LIKE THAT.
Anyway, Rilian starts hunting the snake BY HIMSELF and no one thinks this is odd despite the fact that this is very odd and dangerous, but fuck monarchies and trying to take care of the heir, and also I just need to point out that all this is Caspian's fault because he totally does not do jack-shit to stop this ridiculously dangerous plan of hunting a super-deadly-lethal serpent all by his lonesome and normally I wouldn't blame Caspian (WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES) except he just about straight-up kills someone else over it. (Stay tuned!)
After that, he was always riding on the northern marches of Narnia, hunting for that venomous worm, to kill it and be avenged. No one remarked much on this, though the Prince came home from these wanderings looking tired and distraught. But about a month after the Queen’s death, some said they could see a change in him. There was a look in his eyes as of a man who has seen visions, and though he would be out all day, his horse did not bear signs of hard riding. His chief friend among the older courtiers was the Lord Drinian, he who had been his father’s captain on that great voyage to the east parts of the world.
One evening Drinian said to the Prince, “Your Highness must soon give over seeking the worm. There is no true vengeance on a witless brute as there might be on a man. You weary yourself in vain.” The Prince answered him, “My Lord, I have almost forgotten the worm these seven days.” Drinian asked him why, if that were so, he rode so continually in the northern woods. “My lord,” said the Prince, “I have seen there the most beautiful thing that was ever made.” “Fair Prince,” said Drinian, “of your courtesy let me ride with you tomorrow, that I also may see this fair thing.” “With a good will,” said Rilian.
Then in good time on the next day they saddled their horses and rode a great gallop into the northern woods and alighted at the same fountain where the Queen got her death. Drinian thought it strange that the Prince should choose that place of all places, to linger in. And there they rested till it came to high noon: and at noon Drinian looked up and saw the most beautiful lady he had ever seen; and she stood at the north side of the fountain and said no word but beckoned to the Prince with her hand as if she bade him come to her. And she was tall and great, shining, and wrapped in a thin garment as green as poison. And the Prince stared at her like a man out of his wits. But suddenly the lady was gone, Drinian knew not where; and they two returned to Cair Paravel. It stuck in Drinian’s mind that this shining green woman was evil.
I just don't even have words for how much this aside amuses me. "The sexy woman (evil!) who is magical (evil!!) and mysterious (evil!!!) and also wears colors just like the serpent who killed the queen at this very spot (evil!!!!) seemed totes evil to Drinian."
Just going to here point out that Trumpkin would have fixed this situation right away. "Crusty teacher", my ass.
Drinian doubted very much whether he ought not to tell this adventure to the King, but he had little wish to be a blab and a tale-bearer and so he held his tongue. But afterward he wished he had spoken. For next day Prince Rilian rode out alone. That night he came not back, and from that hour no trace of him was ever found in Narnia nor any neighboring land, and neither his horse nor his hat nor his cloak nor anything else was ever found. Then Drinian in the bitterness of his heart went to Caspian and said, “Lord King, slay me speedily as a great traitor: for by my silence I have destroyed your son.” And he told him the story. Then Caspian caught up a battle-axe and rushed upon the Lord Drinian to kill him, and Drinian stood still as a stock for the death blow. But when the axe was raised, Caspian suddenly threw it away and cried out, “I have lost my queen and my son: shall I lose my friend also?” And he fell upon the Lord Drinian’s neck and embraced him and both wept, and their friendship was not broken.
Hahahahaha, so Drinian didn't say anything about the Obviously Evil Sorceress who clearly had a love-spell on Rilian because he'd heard of the Getting Some clause in the Man Guide, but Caspian was still totes willing to kill his bestie (in a display of Manly Grief, obvs) despite all of this being totally his fault for being a shit king and a shit father and not saying "son, I am totes on board with your whole vengeance quest, but you do actually in fact need to take a chaperone with you because GIANT POISONOUS SNAKE".
Such was the story of Rilian. And when it was over, Jill said, “I bet that serpent and that woman were the same person.”
“True, true, we think the same as you,” hooted the owls.
HAHAHAHAHAHA, OH MY GOD, LEWIS THINKS WE ARE THAT STUPID. Yes, of course they were the same person, as if the Exact Location and the Exact Colors and also Drinian's Spider-Senses Being All Tingly did not tell us. I mean, I know this is a book for kids (and I know adults regularly underestimate kids and how smart they are) but seriously oh my god.
“But we don’t think she killed the Prince,” said Glimfeather, “because no bones—”
“We know she didn’t,” said Scrubb. “Aslan told Pole he was still alive somewhere.”
“That almost makes it worse,” said the oldest owl. “It means she has some use for him, and some deep scheme against Narnia. Long, long ago, at the very beginning, a White Witch came out of the North and bound our land in snow and ice for a hundred years. And we think this may be some of the same crew.”
Please savor the Talking Animals saying how awful it would be if the human crown prince weren't dead, I know that Lewis doesn't mean for me to take this in a subversive "down with the human government" kind of way, but I am going to. HEAD CANON IS THE BEST CANON.
“Very well, then,” said Scrubb. “Pole and I have got to find this Prince. Can you help us?”
“Have you any clue, you two?” asked Glimfeather.
“Yes,” said Scrubb. “We know we’ve got to go north. And we know we’ve got to reach the ruins of a giant city.”
At this there was a greater tu-whooing than ever, and noises of birds shifting their feet and ruffling their feathers, and then all the owls started speaking at once. They all explained how very sorry they were that they themselves could not go with the children on their search for the lost Prince. “You’d want to travel by day, and we’d want to travel by night,” they said. “It wouldn’t do, wouldn’t do.” One or two owls added that even here in the ruined tower it wasn’t nearly so dark as it had been when they began, and that the parliament had been going on quite long enough. In fact, the mere mention of a journey to the ruined city of giants seemed to have damped the spirits of those birds.
AND HERE IS MORE EVIDENCE FOR MY THEORY, because I love how when Eustace and Jill mention they are actually planning to find the Prince, everyone is like "gosh, our sleep cycles are incompatible and honestly that sounds like a lot of work and I've got to get to bed."
OH MY GOD, new head-canon: Trumpkin totally would have helped them out but the Owls are setting the kids up to fail, so they ordered the kids to NOT tell Trumpkin and smuggled them out of the castle as quickly as they could THE BOOK MAKES SO MUCH MORE SENSE THIS WAY and will explain why they set the kids up with Puddleglum of all people and give them ZERO HELP WHATSOEVER after that, and the problem isn't that the kids didn't tell Caspian, the problem is that they did tell this Owl as he was the first person they saw and then they trusted him when he was all "oh, no, don't tell the local authority figure, I don't care what Aslan told you, that would be bad" and oh my god you guys, brb I am writing fanfic in my head.
But Glimfeather said:
“If they want to go that way—into Ettinsmoor—we must take them to one of the Marsh-wiggles. They’re the only people who can help them much.”
“True, true. Do,” said the owls.
“Come on, then,” said Glimfeather. “I’ll take one. Who’ll take the other? It must be done tonight.”
“I will: as far as the Marsh-wiggles,” said another owl.
“Are you ready?” said Glimfeather to Jill.
“I think Pole’s asleep,” said Scrubb.
And I know this is another example of Girls Being The Weaker Sex in Lewis' mind, but since Eustace was talking over her and ignoring her and insulting her, I applaud Jill for just being all FUCK THIS and getting in twenty winks. And also this means that it wasn't Jill who theorized the bleeding obvious up there about Sexy Woman = Serpent, it was Jill talking in her sleep and who among us hasn't said stuff like that in our sleep I ask you. And that's the end of Chapter 4.